The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Congress eyes 12 seats in Tamil Nadu

New Delhi, Jan. 17: A three-member high-level DMK team today called on Sonia Gandhi and held preliminary talks on the Congress joining a DMK-led front in Tamil Nadu.

The delegation comprised DMK chief M. Karunanidhi’s son and party deputy general secretary M.K. Stalin, former Union minister T.R. Baalu and Dayanidhi Maran, son of the late Murasoli Maran.

Congress chief Sonia, who was meeting DMK leaders for the first time, said after an hour’s talk at 10, Janpath: “It is going to be a forward movement and we shall meet again in two to three days.” Senior Congress leader Manmohan Singh was also present.

The leaders said they had not discussed seat-sharing, but sources said an understanding has been reached that the Congress may contest 12 or 13 seats of the 39 Lok Sabha seats in the state. In 1999, the Congress contested 12 seats in alliance with the ADMK.

The remaining seats will be shared between the DMK and other front members — the MDMK, PMK and the Left.

Sonia said today’s discussions were a follow-up to Singh’s January 8 talks with Karunanidhi in Chennai.

Asked if she would meet the DMK chief, the Congress president said: “I look forward to meeting Karunanidhiji. At the earliest opportunity I shall call on him.”

She described today’s discussion as a “preliminary” talk on the political situation in Tamil Nadu. The Congress and DMK have decided to discuss the issue with party colleagues and meet again shortly.

Stalin said the talks focused on the Tamil Nadu situation and on strengthening the alliance.

“We came to Delhi to discuss with the Congress president (the) political development in the context of (the) coming Lok Sabha polls and steps to be taken in this direction. Soniaji expressed a desire to meet Karunanidhi. She will confirm the date in two to three days,” he added.

The DMK deputy general secretary said seat-sharing had not figured at the talks.

Sonia had ended two decades of icy ties with Karunanidhi by ringing up the DMK chief on December 30 last year to greet him on New Year. She also congratulated him for withdrawing from the National Democratic Alliance at the government.

The call set the tone for talks on an alliance between the two parties, with the Congress chief telling her DMK counterpart that like-minded secular parties should ally to take on BJP in the Lok Sabha polls.

Singh said no discussions have been held yet on a joint campaign or common minimum programme.

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